Calcium in Milk: What’s the Deal?

  • Article
  • September 9, 2016

The mineral calcium is a nutrient with several roles in the body, but is popularly known for helping maintain bone health throughout life. Calcium and milk are almost inseparable. Nutrition experts say people should get their nutrients from whole foods – and cow’s milk is an excellent source of calcium and a whole food. Dairy foods (milk, yogurt and cheese) can provide calcium and vitamin D, which are nutrients important for bone health.

Here are several reasons why cow’s milk should be a top choice for calcium in people’s meal plans:

  • Milk is the No. 1 food source of calcium (and vitamin D) in the American diet (based on what people are actually eating) in both adults and children.
  • Milk is an excellent source of calcium, providing 300 mg per 8-ounce serving.
  • Milk provides calcium, high-quality protein, and other essential vitamins and minerals needed for bone and overall health.
  • Calcium absorption from milk is higher than from some non-dairy foods that contain smaller amounts of calcium. For example, only 5 percent of the calcium in spinach is absorbed and usable by the body, while 28 percent of the calcium in milk is absorbed.
  • Calcium and other nutrients in milk can be hard to replace with other foods in a healthy dietary pattern.
  • Higher consumption of calcium and dairy foods have been linked to better bone health and increased consumption of adequate nutrients. Healthy eating styles, which include low-fat and fat-free dairy foods, are linked to reduced risk of certain chronic diseases, including reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.

Your age and gender determines the amount of calcium recommended you consume each day. However, many people, especially teens, postmenopausal women and older men, do not get enough calcium. In fact the 2015-20 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) declared calcium a nutrient of public health concern, which is primarily due to low consumption of milk, yogurt and cheese. Did you know that second only to vegetables, the average person falls well below meeting recommended servings for the dairy group?

But the good news is we can help close this gap if everyone age 9 and older eats the recommended three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy foods (milk, yogurt, cheese) each day as part of the Healthy U.S. Style Eating Pattern.

Check out our recipes for some delicious ways to help with that.